Patriots release safety Don Jones

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In a move that registers as a surprise, the New England Patriots waived safety Don Jones -- one of their best special teams players -- on Thursday.

Jones has played in nine games this season, with all of his snaps coming on special teams. Coaches credited him with eight special-teams tackles, which was the third-highest total on the team. A second-year player out of Arkansas State, Jones regularly plays on the punt coverage team (gunner), punt return (against the gunner) and kickoff coverage teams.

Given that type of production, and his valued role on the team, it makes one wonder why the Patriots would make such a move.

We've put out a few feelers, but as we attempt to gather more intelligence, here are a few off-the-cuff thoughts:

1. Roster management: The Patriots could still have plans for Jones (if he clears waivers) but might feel they need to create an opening on the roster for another position (e.g. long snapper) this week. By making the move Thursday, perhaps the Patriots feel there's a better chance Jones would clear waivers and they could bring him back once their short-term need at another spot is addressed.

2. Not about football? A move like this, out of the blue, makes one wonder if it wasn't about football-specific reasons.

3. Not related to Siliga: One thought is that perhaps the Patriots are clearing a spot for the return of defensive tackle Sealver Siliga from the short-term injured reserve list. But since Siliga has yet to participate in a regular practice with the team, that seems highly unlikely.